Tell us more about her faith, NYT

Kristin Chenoweth2I am not a regular presence at the theater or a frequent reader of theater reviews. So it goes without saying that I know little about writing a good review of acting or singing. With that said, I thought the New York Times article on singer/actress Kristin Chenoweth was a half-decent read.

Why was I reading a profile of Chenoweth? I can already hear some of your snickering, but to be honest, it was the headline that drew me, an indefatigable reader of political, business, culture and sports news, into the artsy section of the Times. My lack of attention to the finer arts is a deficiency that I am readily to admit, but there’s no time like now to fix that, right?

The headline in question — “She Sings! She Acts! She Prays!” — established some expectations for the article, and they weren’t necessarily good expectations. I was somewhat worried that the article would focus solely on controversial aspects of Chenoweth’s career, that it would be overly preachy or it would neglect Chenoweth’s beliefs.

If anything, the article fell down on my third concern, and it was simply a matter of not asking.

Overall, though, reporter Jesse Green nicely balanced the aspects of Chenoweth’s life into a package about theater, dancing, singing, the travails of being a popular artist in New York City and, yes, being a liberal Christian:

“God knows I’ve made mistakes and been criticized for them,” Ms. Chenoweth said unflinchingly. (Some have even been turned into TV fiction on “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.”) “When I was promoting ‘As I Am’ last year,” she said, “I went on ‘The 700 Club,’” Pat Robertson’s talk show on the Christian Broadcasting Network. “I wasn’t thinking about what it represents. I guess I was living in a little bit of a bubble, and I was surprised that it upset so many people. If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t go, because I don’t agree with that antigay stuff. I don’t understand what the big deal is with gay marriage. Get over it, people. What if it was a sin to be short? Well, I guess it is in the Miss Oklahoma pageant.” (She was the runner-up in 1991.)

But when she assured her theater fans that she supports gay rights her Christian base was outraged; she was disinvited from performing at a Women of Faith conference in September 2005. She drew further criticism when she appeared in a parade of tiny bikinis in the March 2006 issue of FHM. Though even her parents were uncomfortable, she’s stopped apologizing.

“I’m a young woman, I like men, I’m not going to pretend to be what I’m not,” she said. “Anyway, I’ve finally graduated from the college of I Don’t Give a Hoot.” But “hoot” was not her first choice of words.

Kristin ChenowethIf anything, I felt that the article could go deeper into the source of Chenoweth’s faith and values.

She is a self-described liberal Christian, and the source for the liberal side of her belief system is fairly obvious, but there is little explaining how Chenoweth came to be a Christian and how/why she maintains her faith.

The big issue for Chenoweth has been her support of gay rights, and specifically of gay marriage. Why does she support it? Well, I can’t read her mind and the article does not tell us, but it is likely because she has a large fanbase of gays. But Chenoweth also has a large fanbase of Christians, so it’s tough to say what motivates her.

Throughout the article, in between talking about her dog’s new outfit and weight gain/loss, spats with other dancers/actresses and her various boyfriends, Chenoweth’s faith stands out — not in an obvious way, but subtly.

Check out the penultimate paragraph:

“I realize this makes me sound insane,” she said, “but knowing there is a higher power and a plan gives me peace. Of course there have been times when God’s plan didn’t match up with mine” — as, for instance, when she tumbled backward off a stage platform during a tech rehearsal for “The Apple Tree” and banged herself up good.

While the piece is not likely to win over many Christian conservatives who have largely written off the Times as a liberal secular rag not worth their time, the article approriately highlights a talented individual’s faith.

I just wish the Times had told us more.

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To pray or not to pray

hagia sophiaStories filed at the end of Pope Benedict XVI’s trip to Turkey highlighted his visit to — and prayer inside — a Muslim mosque. That’s a good thing, since it’s very newsworthy when a leader of the Christian religion worships or prays in a place of worship for non-Christians.

I was going to highlight various stories from the BBC, the Los Angeles Times, and Reuters this weekend, but other events got in the way.

I thought most of the stories did a great job of accurately representing the facts of the pope’s visits to Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque across the street. And most of the stories even did a good job of highlighting the significance to Muslims of the prayer inside the mosque, facing Mecca. And the significance to Muslims of his failure to pray inside the Hagia Sophia was fleshed out, as evidenced by this section from the Los Angeles Times‘ Tracy Wilkinson:

The pope avoided potential controversy in a visit to the Hagia Sophia, an imposing structure built in the 6th century as a Byzantine church and converted to a mosque in the 15th century by Ottoman sultans. The rigidly secular forces that formed modern Turkey in the early 20th century turned the Hagia Sophia into a museum, one of Istanbul’s most popular tourist destinations where public displays of worship are banned.

The mere suggestion that the pope might pray there had enraged Turkish nationalists. When the late Pope Paul VI came to Istanbul in 1967, he knelt to pray in the Hagia Sophia, touching off protests by extremists who were convinced that he was trying to reassert Christian jurisdiction over the site.

Benedict visited the vast museum of domes and minarets, an incongruous combination of Muslim and Christian features, in more restrained fashion. He refrained from any overt religious gestures and instead listened to explanations from his host, Istanbul Governor Muammer Guler.

What was lacking, in my view, was a look at the significance of each visit for Christians. Members of the Catholic blogosphere were expressing disappointment or support for the pope’s decisions, but the mainstream media coverage didn’t seem to pick up on it. To that end, I was pleasantly surprised to see a nicely written piece of in-depth analysis from The New York Times’ Ian Fisher. He covered the story all week before providing a lookback on Sunday:

Has the pope gone wobbly?

The question might matter less if he weren’t the man he is — and if the images of his facing Mecca in prayer on his trip to Turkey weren’t fresh. Supporters have long depended on Benedict XVI for brave talk, even and maybe especially if it was unpleasant to hear. But his was never mere blunt confrontation. With his big brain and the heft of Roman Catholic tradition behind him, Benedict has stood for a remarkably clear idea: there is truth, and we won’t retreat from it.

blue mosqueThe piece covers varying views from Catholics and puts it all in the context of what the Turkey visit indicates about what kind of papacy Benedict will have. It’s got more attitude than a typical mainstream media piece, but it balances everything out nicely and is remarkably fair and sympathetic to Benedict’s new tone. While it’s an op-ed, another piece worth checking out ran in today’s Los Angeles Times. Raymond Ibrahim, a research librarian at the Library of Congress, finds more than a few fascinating aspects to the trip:

In the days before Pope Benedict XVI’s visit last Thursday to the Hagia Sophia complex in Istanbul, Muslims and Turks expressed fear, apprehension and rage. “The risk,” according to Turkey’s independent newspaper Vatan, “is that Benedict will send Turkey’s Muslims and much of the Islamic world into paroxysms of fury if there is any perception that the pope is trying to re-appropriate a Christian center that fell to Muslims.” Apparently making the sign of the cross or any other gesture of Christian worship in Hagia Sophia constitutes such a sacrilege.

Built in the 6th century, Hagia Sophia — Greek for “Holy Wisdom” — was Christendom’s greatest and most celebrated church. After parrying centuries of jihadi thrusts from Arabs, Constantinople — now Istanbul — was finally sacked by Turks in 1453, and Hagia Sophia’s crosses were desecrated, its icons defaced. Along with thousands of other churches in the Byzantine Empire, it was immediately converted into a mosque, the tall minarets of Islam surrounding it in triumph. Nearly 500 years later, in 1935, as part of reformer Kemal Ataturk’s drive to modernize Turkey, Hagia Sophia was secularized and transformed into a museum.

The piece, using rather strong language, argues against providing Muslims with special treatment. Whether or not you agree with the argument, it’s worth asking whether reporters implicitly did just that by focusing on the Muslim reaction to Benedict’s trip while largely ignoring the Christian reaction.

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Reflecting local religious flavor

crab cake Most people are familiar with two of Christianity’s holiest days — Christmas and Easter. But those are just two of many holy days, or holidays, celebrated by Christians who follow a liturgical calendar. And the calendar has seasons that lead up to the high festivals.

Even people who have sung “The 12 Days Christmas” hundreds of times don’t think of Christmas time as comprising two distinct liturgical periods. Until the 12-day festival of Christmas arrives, the four weeks prior are Advent in the Western Church, which mark a solemn time of prayer and preparation for Christmas. The season begins in mid-November for the Eastern Church and is called Christmas Lent.

I like watching for stories that talk about what it’s like to celebrate the holy days of the season as a liturgical Christian, so I was pleasantly surprised to find this one from Tim Townsend of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

But Advent has another purpose that is at even greater odds with the office partying, extreme shopping, egg-nog-sipping customs that the month of December has come to represent. According to the HarperCollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism, Advent “has a twofold character: It prepares for the commemoration of the Incarnation … and it looks forward to Christ’s second coming at the end of time.” Pastors say that second message is even harder to push through the wall of commercialism that Christmas in America has become.

The first part of Townsend’s story quotes extensively from St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke’s written column and a previous homily on Advent. He also speaks with a theology professor at Xavier University in Cincinnati and pastors at Presbyterian, African Methodist Episcopal, Roman Catholic and Methodist parishes. And that’s wonderful. But it made me realize that I rarely see any Missouri-Synod Lutherans in Townsend’s pieces. In fact, the last time I remember a piece about my brand of Lutherans was when our Synodical President faced an election challenge two and a half years ago. Ths could be an oversight of my newscrawling capabilities, to be sure.

But the reason it’s interesting is not because Missouri Synod Lutherans are one of the largest Protestant church bodies in the United States; it’s that they are headquartered in St. Louis. So I hope Townsend is spending time digging into the stories that are happening in his backyard. But I am completely compromised on this topic.

Let’s look at another example of a local news site and its relationship to the local religious scene. Recently The Washington Post started a religion blog called On Faith. The “conversation on religion,” hosted by Jon Meacham and Sally Quinn, is still getting started.

So far, 75 panelists take part in the conversations. By my rough count, you have a dozen Muslim experts or adherents, almost the same number of Jewish scholars, eight Anglicans, eight Roman Catholics, and several Baptists and evangelicals. This is based on my interpretation of their biographies, so I could be wrongly ascribing a religious view to panelists. A Latter-day Saint, Native American spiritualist, Wiccan practitioner, Hindu, Greek Orthodox, Lutheran and Baptist round out the discussion.

Why not include someone from the Seventh-day Adventist church, whose world headquarters are in Silver Spring, Maryland? It sure couldn’t hurt. Leaving them out would be like the Post neglecting to mention crab cakes in a regional food review. Any other suggestions for missing voices on that site?

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’Tis the season for that Lenten classic

handelI have been criticized, sometimes with good cause, for being rather rough on the religion coverage in the Baltimore Sun, the local newspaper that lands in my front yard.

It is true, however, that I know more churchgoers (and not just at my Orthodox parish) who are furious with the Sun than I do those who sing its praises. However, this seems to have more to do with the newspaper’s strong-left tendencies on all cultural issues in American politics. In my case, there are many times when I get mad that the newspaper seems to have no consistent approach to covering this beat. Then there are times when I read what is published and I say to myself, “Wait! Do I really want this newspaper covering religion on a daily basis?”

But wait! Let me get back on track. The purpose of this post is to praise the Sun for having the courage to run the following material in a page-one feature story with this headline: “It’s not Christmas without ‘Messiah’ — Public demand makes Handel’s work a music staple.”

Choral music lovers, are you ready to be shocked?

“It really does signal the holiday season,” said Monica Otal, artistic director of the Central Maryland Chorale, which has been offering a Messiah sing-along for 20 years. “I think you just have to think of it as a tradition. People love this work. They want to hear it at Christmastime.”

In fact, the full, three-part, more-than-three-hour oratorio was originally written to be performed during Lent. Words selected from the Bible by Charles Jennens and music by Handel explore the birth, death and meaning of the life of Jesus Christ.

. . . Sometime in the 19th century, groups started using the work at Christmastime, and the association of the music and the season caught on.

. . . Some choirs tackle the entire work, including the Concert Artists of Baltimore Symphonic Chorale with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, which for 25 years has performed Messiah in its entirety. The Maryland Chorus, based at the University of Maryland College Park, plans to do the full oratorio this weekend for its first Messiah performance in 10 years.

The more common approach is to perform the first part, which tells the Christmas story, and then a few selections from Part II and possibly Part III, ending with the popular “Hallelujah chorus,” which officially is the end of the second part.

As a veteran choral musician, I almost fell out of my chair when I read this.

Why? It’s accurate. Messiah is not a Christmas piece and it really doesn’t end with a thundering herd of vocalists trampling the “Hallelujah chorus.”

Oh, sorry about that burst of righteous anger. But I really do love hearing Messiah the way Handel wrote it, with a small orchestra and a nimble chorus of about 20-25 voices prepared to chase those light, dancing cadences while leaving all the notes intact. It never was meant to turn into a kind of Massive Tabernacle Choir civic holiday stampede.

But if you Google News “Messiah” and “Christmas classic” you will, I fear, find many newspapers writing that same old story about this work. However, search for “Messiah” and “Easter” and you will also find a brave few who get the facts right. Bravo! I especially liked an Ottawa Citizen headline that proclaims, “If you listen, you can hear Handel weeping.”

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When will Romney tell us what he believes?

mitt romney4And does it matter?

John Dickerson of Slate has a solid piece that fleshes out Mitt Romney’s Mormon issue and provides us with some interesting news tidbits. Dickerson calls on Romney to explain his beliefs in a clear, concise way that gives voters an idea of how his faith will affect his life. According to Dickerson, Romney’s people say he will address such questions once he officially announces his candidacy sometime early next year.

Dickerson raises an excellent point that while John Kennedy could plausibly declare that his Catholicism did not affect his public life because of the separation of church and state, Romney is asking people to vote for him because he shares their moral values. What, may we ask, is the source of those moral values? Might it be Romney’s Mormon faith?

Here is Dickerson:

Address the Mormon issue, and move on: That’s what the Romney camp hopes will happen when he gives his public speech. But talking about these issues in public will be tricky. First, it’s one thing to answer questions about Christ. It’s another to proclaim your faith in him at length and in public, if you consider your faith a largely private matter. Plus, Romney will have to say enough to inform the confused and comfort the fearful, but not so much that he has to answer doctrinal questions for the rest of his candidacy about exaltation and undergarment.

. . . The best intellectual argument Romney could use isn’t available to him, which is that all religions have their odd traditions and beliefs that look highly quirky under close examination. Romney could use my Catholic Church as an example, but in doing so, he’d risk alienating another key constituency. Imagine what fun he could have had with the Charismatics, some of whom speak in tongues or drink snake venom.

In other words, for Romney to be successful, he will have to explain why his faith matters to him and why those Americans who find it strange need to grow up. If he is successful, does anyone have an idea of the effect this could have on Mormons in America?

In related news, The Boston Globe reported that the Rev. Jerry Falwell has issued a statement that has had not endorsed Romney’s candidacy. The Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger reported that Romney said he had the support of Falwell and other conservative religious leaders. A transcript showed that Romney was indeed misquoted, according to the Globe, and that he quoted Falwell as saying he could support candidates of a different faith as long as they agreed on social and moral issues.

Glad we have that cleared up. Here are some of the latest developments in the Romney campaign, as reported by the Globe:

Also yesterday, Romney’s political action committee, the Commonwealth PAC, announced that a slew of new advisers had joined his political team, including Kevin Madden, a veteran Washington, D.C., communications specialist. Madden served as spokesman for the last two House majority leaders, John A. Boehner of Ohio and Tom DeLay of Texas, and was part of President Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign.

Romney’s PAC also announced that two leading economists and former chairmen of President Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers, Glenn Hubbard and Greg Mankiw, would advise him on the economy, as will Cesar Conda, a former top domestic policy adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney. The PAC also announced several new advisers in the Southeast.

For Romney to be successful, he will have to connect with potential voters. He will also have to reach key evangelical leaders and give them some political cover if they are to support them. A significant percentage of this will be determined by how reporters cover his “I am a Mormon” speech. Look for the first polling data to give the earliest indicators. From there it will snowball one way or the other.

For the record, the most recent poll found that 43 percent of respondents maintain they will never vote for a Mormon, while 51 percent of evangelicals maintain that stance. If that changes, either way, it’s a news story to watch.

Comments on this post should address the media’s coverage of Romney and his Mormon faith. Comments that stray from this focus will be deleted punctually.

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Yes, MZ has a good reason for silence

ByteStorLet me jump in here with a short personal note from your GetReligion crew.

If it seems that the Divine Mrs. MZ has been quiet for a few days, there is a good reason for that. On Friday, someone broke into the Hemingways’ apartment — along with several others in the building — and stole all kinds of things, not the least of which was Mollie’s laptop computer.

Now the key here is that not only did they steal her laptop. Whoever did this (are there anti-Lutheran hate groups?) stole all of her computer equipment. He, she or it stole the whole shooting match. Not only did she lose the laptop containing the text and reseach for her forthcoming book on how America’s public language on religion keeps changing, but the thief also took the system in which all of this was backed up.

Mollie does have a text, but this is a serious setback. On top of that, Mollie has been called for jury duty. We hope she can get back online soon, because she is missed.

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Who are Hakan Tastan and Turan Topal?

CompassTurkeyDuring this busy week, I have been watching to see if two men’s names showed up, at any point, in Google News.

I mean showed up in mainstream news sites, not the sites that care about issues like religious liberty. Of course, once upon a time, we could assume that, as a rule, journalists tended to care quite a bit about issues like free speech and the rights of oppressed minority groups. Where is A.M. Rosenthal when you need him?

Anyway, the names are Hakan Tastan and Turan Topal (left to right in the photo).

You can find out why they are important by flashing back to an AsiaNews report from earlier this month.

But I have been watching to see if their names surfaced in coverage of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Turkey. Why? To answer that question we have to turn to some form of advocacy media — like this Compass Direct report by veteran journalist Barbara G. Baker (a friend of this blog), which was, thank goodness, picked up by Baptist Press.

To cut to the chase, these two men continue to be accused of “insulting Turkishness” because they have, as evangelicals, tried to do evangelical things. You know, the kinds of basic free-speech activities that people can do in countries that are part of the European Union. I think.

Formally the two Christians are charged with violating Article 301 of the Turkish penal code, under which scores of Turkish intellectuals and writers have been prosecuted in the past 18 months for allegedly denigrating “Turkish identity.” The former Muslims also are accused under separate statutes of reviling Islam (Article 216), as well as secretly compiling files on private citizens for a Bible correspondence course without the individuals’ knowledge or permission (Article 135).

“We don’t use force to tell anyone about Christianity,” Tastan said. “But we are Christians, and if the Lord permits, we will continue to proclaim this.”

Describing himself and Topal as “citizens of the Republic of Turkey who love its democratic, secular system,” Tastan emphasized that he and Topal had nothing to hide in defending themselves in court. “We are not ashamed to be Turks. We are not ashamed to be Christians.”

Now, what does this sound like from the other side of the issue, from the side of the rising tide of — depending on who is doing the labeling — the “ultranationalists” or in some cases “Islamists.” Are the Christian men anti-secularist or anti-Islam? Which label will get you jailed or killed quickest?

The attorney pushing to silence Tastan and Topal is Kemal Kerincsiz:

“Christian missionaries working almost like terrorist groups are able to enter into high schools and among primary school students,” Kerincsiz told reporters. “They deceive our children with beautiful young girls.”

At this, one Turkish Christian in the crowd shouted, “He’s lying!” Several nationalist demonstrators reacted violently, starting to shove the converts’ supporters and hitting one. But police promptly intervened to detain and remove the attacker, releasing him a few minutes later.

The Christian who had been struck also was detained briefly by the authorities, who questioned him and then photocopied his identity card before releasing him.

. . . By this time, a group of local nationalists had unfurled a banner in front of the cameras reading, “Missionaries: Keep your hands off our schools and children.”

There’s a lot more to read. Here is my question: Why isn’t this mainstream news if the back story to the papal visit is Turkey’s bid to enter the European Union and, well, the Western world built on some form of rule of law? I am glad that “Christian news agencies” cover these stories, believe me. I respect the work they do. But why do I need to read about this religious-liberty issue on “religious” news sites?

I want to read about this in the elite MSM newspapers and wire services. It’s news.

Right? Does religious liberty matter? Does free speech matter? How about the freedom of assembly? And isn’t this linked, in a way, with the freedom of the press?

Photo from Compass Direct News.

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On breaking up

breaking upThere’s turmoil over at the Christian Coalition. Florida megachurch pastor Joel Hunter, who supports raising the minimum wage, opposes the death penalty and wants to take on global warming, was scheduled to take over Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition in January. But according to The Washington Post‘s Alan Cooperman, the organization’s chairwoman, Roberta Combs, has decided to rescind that offer.

What’s this? There are megachurch pastors out there who are not walking in lockstep with the political movement that has been dubbed the “religious right”? Check out Cooperman’s interview with Jason Christy, who was the group’s executive director for three weeks in late 2005:

Christy added that his political views are far different from those of Hunter, author of a book called “Right Wing, Wrong Bird: Why the Tactics of the Religious Right Won’t Fly With Most Conservative Christians.”

“In terms of Hunter, they picked the wrong captain for the wrong ship,” he said. “The title of his book alone tells me that they did not do their due diligence.”

Hunter said he made clear from the moment that Combs approached him about the job in April that he wanted to pursue a broad agenda of “compassion issues.”

“I hope we can break out of ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative.’ I’m not sure when compassion became fitted under ‘liberal,’” he said. “There are many Christians, especially in their twenties and thirties, who don’t care about liberal and conservative. They just see that if you’re going to love your neighbor, you have to address things like the environment.”

Initially, Hunter added, Combs “seemed to be interested” in his approach. “But I think it’s very difficult once you have poured your life into an organization to transfer authority to someone else,” he said.

The Los Angeles Times picked up on a slightly different angle than the Post:

In an interview Tuesday, Hunter said that the coalition’s board had initially signed off on this approach, but appeared to get cold feet. He said the board also backtracked on supporting his vision for the group to focus more on grass-roots organizing rather than on Washington-based advocacy.

“They have just been Washington-focused since their inception,” Hunter said.

time's evangelicalsAre we picking up on hints, as Newsweek suggests, that there is an “Evangelical Identity Crisis“? Post-election bickering is out in full force and the agenda carved out so neatly within the Republican Party platform is beginning to split open. As the deck in Miller’s article asks, is it going to be “sex or social justice”? Could we also be talking about sex and social justice? A question for pollsters and religion writers: are the two incompatible? Is this a broadening or a shifting of the evangelical agenda? Here’s Newsweek:

But now, more than three decades after Roe v. Wade propelled religious conservatives fully into the arena, a new generation of evangelical believers is pressing beyond the religious right of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, trying to broaden the movement’s focus from the familiar wars about sex to include issues of social and economic justice. The result is a new hour of decision for evangelicals: How much do they have to show for the decades of activism? And if they are to turn from what Roger Williams called “the garden of Christ’s church” to fight the battles of “the wilderness of the world,” what should those battles be?

For the first time in a long while, then, there is a serious rethinking of the politics of Jesus in America — or at least the efforts of different elements in the country, from believers of progressive, moderate and conservative bents, to claim they are acting in his name in the public sphere. “In this world ye shall have tribulation,” Jesus told his disciples — a decided understatement. Though he added the reassurance that they should “be of good cheer; I have overcome the world,” those disciples and their heirs down two millennia still face tribulation and trouble, and currently stand at a crossroads. Can they move beyond the apparent confines of the religious right as popularly understood, or are they destined to seem harsh and intolerant — the opposite of what their own faith would have them be? The search for an answer to that question goes to the heart of what American life and politics will look like as we face a landmark midterm election this week and a wide-open presidential race two years hence.

Some Christians, exhausted by divisive wedge politics, are going back to the Bible and embracing a wider-ranging agenda, one that emphasizes reaching out to the poor and disenfranchised. Almost unanimously, these evangelicals cite as a model Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. Members of his church sign up for missionary stints in Africa, resolve to feed the homeless and see themselves as part of a global Christian community. Over the past six months, Warren has added his name to a public letter condemning abortion and embryonic-stem-cell research, as well as to one demanding an end to atrocities in Darfur and another denouncing torture. “Rick Warren … has a lightness of being,” says John DiIulio, a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania and former Bush White House staffer. “How do you get coordinates for a guy who talks about poverty like a liberal Catholic?”

Then there is this whole separate story, as reported in the Colorado Springs Gazette, that the Republican Party is dumping the evangelical vote. If evangelicals are already heading toward emphasizing the minimum wage, global warming and opposing the death penalty, why would they consider the GOP their home anyway?

Lastly, check out this story in The Orange County Register in which Purpose Driven Life pastor Rick Warren is taking heat from religious conservatives for inviting Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., to attend an AIDS conference. One radio host and blogger has called Obama the anti-Christ for his support of abortion. Note that Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, is also participating.

What to make of all of this? There are, of course, more than enough conservative Christians out there who really do not like Warren. It would be interesting to compare the political influence of Warren with someone like James Dobson or even Pat Robertson. We have been watching the implosion of the GOP for quite some time now, but are we seeing the separation of the Christian right from evangelicalism? Are the 25 conservatives on Time‘s “Most Influential Evangelicalslist still on the same team?

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